I am a sub 3 marathoner!!! All that hard work paid off: those early morning runs in the cold and dark, the strength training, the yoga (okay, that’s good for the mind), the long runs, the tempo – all of it.
|24th Mile with Aimee Newsome (my right) and Derek Bailey (in red) in hot pursuit|
Thank you Houston and thanks to my coaches, Ryan Vail and Mike Hamberger, pacer Derek Bailey, club DC Road Runners, too many club mates to mention that includes Stephen Easley, Alex Albertini, Joe Kane, Michael Rohlf, Shawn Zeller, Michael Pryce-Jones, and more, and my favorite running partner, Sammy Ames. But most importantly, thank you to my wife, partner, and muse Laura Goldin Ames!!! #sub3 #houstonmarathon #micdrop
|Derek and I during took a photo during our easy jog.|
To recap the weekend, I arrived Friday, January 15, 2016, into Hobby where Derek Bailey, my running friend who I met in 2011 at the Pocatello, Idaho, Marathon, met me and drove me to my hotel, the Club Quarters. On the flight, I finished “Once a Runner,” a fun fictional story about a runner realizing his potential. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to finish a book a month, and I had started this book a few times before finally finishing it this weekend.
|Watching Chris finish the 5K.|
In the morning, we met up with his friend Chris and ran an easy twenty minutes then watched Chris break 17 in the 5K. The expo opened at 8:30 AM and we were some of the first people so we quickly grabbed our packets, shirts, and other goodies before headed off to breakfast. We found a bakery along the early miles of the course, and I grabbed a green tea, a raisin bagel with lox and cream cheese, and two bagels for Sunday breakfast. The three of us drove the course, which was helpful, as I knew what to expect on Sunday. Back at my hotel, I went out to a nearby Italian restaurant that is also an Irish pub, and took the pasta bowl to eat in my room. I rested most of the afternoon and watched the Patriots win their divisional matchup against the Chiefs. At halftime, I went down to the hotel restaurant, ordered more pasta and bread, watched a quarter next to two Chiefs fans from Kansas City, and retreated to my room. I spent a lot of time on my bed simply relaxing, watching football and other TV (Brewster’s Millions), and went to bed.
|All the names of the runners listed in the expo.|
I woke up a few times during the night since I was overhydrated and because some of my neighbors loudly returned to their rooms past midnight. I think around 2AM I was up trying to fall back asleep, but since it was fruitless I just kept my eyes shut. Around 3:30 AM I ate the first bagel, readied myself, and ventured out to the George Brown Convention Center, where the runners waited indoors. Having never been to Texas before this trip, it was amusing to see several church services occurring. Derek met up with his running group that was also sort of part of a church or prayer group – the minister had won the race in 70s and given Bill Rodgers a good race in Boston. A runner from DC, Tuan, was connected with us as he was going to try to produce a three-hour marathon. Around 6AM with an hour to go, we left to go to the start line.
|Packet pick up|
The weather was perfect for a marathon – it was in the 40s and I was cold waiting around for close to thirty minutes. At the gun, we took off and tried to stick together as best we could, but there were so many people. I took the first mile slow with the goal of easing into my pace by the 5K mats. Derek and Tuan stayed in sight if not on my shoulder and he started to run with his friend, Amy, who was in the sub elite crowd. I don’t recall the four of us ever running shoulder-to-shoulder, but that could be due to the fact that we were surrounded and then absorbed by the three-hour pace group. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were thirty runners relying on the pace group. It wasn’t my strategy to hang with them, but there was a steady headwind that I avoided letting it beat me up by tucking myself into the pack and drafting off the leaders. Derek and Amy took off by Rice University after the eighth mile but Tuan was with me. I do remember passing the Hillel a mile earlier when Derek was with me and said the Shehechianu as this was our first time running Houston together.
As we neared the halfway point, I thought that Derek had sped ahead, but while turning I saw him behind the pack by about twenty seconds. I later found out he pulled over to go to a port-o-john. I did a self-assessment at the halfway point and everything felt pretty good, and I had clocked a solid 1:29:38. Since I had read a couple of articles about the shortcomings of the GPS watch, I had an easier time ignoring my watch and focusing on the dude’s shirt in front of me or the pacers’ balloons. Of course I still checked my pace from time to time, especially early on to make sure I wasn’t going out too fast, but for the most part I was able to focus on the mental game. At the 22K mark, I vowed that if I can hang with them for the next 10K that I would make a push with 10K to go.
Each mile and kilometer marker became a milestone, one more marker to reassure me that I was still on goal of breaking three. As I plodded onward, the countdown began just after where I thought 16.2 was as I knew I only had to run a solid ten miles in roughly seventy minutes to come under three. Near the eighteen-mile mark, I passed Amy, but she caught me and we ran together for a few miles. At mile twenty, my brain knew I had 10K to the finish and simply needed to put down a 43-44 to accomplish my goal. After the twenty-first mile, it appeared that the pace group dissipated at a water stop. At past water stops, runners would leave formation to grab hydration, but it always reformed with the two pacers and their balloons in hand taking front-runner status. This time, I didn’t see if reform and had a decision to make: stay with the one pacer or forge ahead on my own. I decided I felt decent enough to try to lay down the hammer. In retrospect, that decision likely saved my race since increasing my effort was necessary to hold pace. With four to go, I had a small cushion but began to really believe this was going to happen. After the twenty-third mile marker, I had 5K to go and correctly deduced that my current pace was good, but I needed to hold it. Around the twenty-four mile, I heard someone cheer for Derek and soon he caught me. I tried to stick with him for a bit, but I knew that I only needed two more miles at seven minute pace so I let him go. In retrospect, should I have pushed harder to give him a chase? If there is a fault in my race today, this possibly qualifies, but you cannot be upset when you run a personal best.
|Celebrating near the toilets|
The final mile was tough and euphoric at the same time. I knew I was going to achieve my goal so I used the extra emotion to pick up the pace, especially with half a mile to go. When I hit that sign, I had about four minutes to break three and half of an eight minute pace would do it but I went faster to leave nothing on the course. Then there was only one lap of a track left and then we entered the finisher’s chute and I crossed the line with a good push for a time of 2:59:31! I was ecstatic yelled “PR!” “Sub-three” and “Thank you, Houston!” Derek crossed about twenty seconds ahead and we celebrated our achievements together. We marched into the convention center to retrieve our bags – I was eager to call my wife and coach – and our finisher’s shirt and beer mug. Before parting, we took a photo by the port-o-john, a Derek tradition for some reason, and said goodbye.
|Pizza and beer - the celebration lunch of champions!|
Back at the hotel, I showered, packed, checked-out, went to Flying Sauce around the corner for a pizza and some Texas IPAs. I was able to connect with Brant Koch, the race director, and thank him for a great race and gave him a DC Road Runners Club shirt. He’s a really nice guy – I met his daughter in DC as she is looking for work. Then, Tuan and I shared a cab to the airport.
|With the race director near the finish|
None of my miles were in the 7:00 minute range. Each 5K segment was in the 21 minute range.
According to my Garmin GPS = 6:57/47/40/49/48/46/47/56/45/46/50/51/48/51/48/45/46/46/51/46/49/49/53/58/55/50/ 2:15/6:11 (.37) - 5K = 21:13; 10K = 21:10/42:23; 15K = 21:21/1:03:44; Half = 25:54/1:29:38; 25K = 16:48/1:46:26; 30K = 21:09/2:07:35; 40K = 21:38/2:50:30 Finish = 9:01/2:59:31.
OA = 219; Gender = 170; AG = 34
I only had a +15 seconds positive split – very even (1:29:38/ 1:29:53). On Marathon Guide, my age graded time is 2:57:54. I feel really good the day after and even could run a few miles if I had to - which I will not. I predict my next run to be Tuesday morning - an easy four miler.
I remember when I finished I commented that I had nothing else to shoot for since I accomplished my goal. He said there are plenty of more goals to set and sub three-hour marathons to run. I hope he’s right – this was an amazing experience!! Next up: Boston!!
State 23 and Marathon 34